Monthly Archives: September 2013

Celebrating six months since transplant

As I approach celebrating six months (this Friday!) since my stem cell transplant, I find myself coming back to convictions that have steadily grown during my unexpected journey with Leukemia:

I find myself actually thankful for how God has spoken to Marcia and me through this unexpected journey in ways I don’t think we would have experienced on any other path. To be honest, sometimes more thankful than others, but He continues to bring us back to center when we are done with our self efforts and complaining for the day. :-). I have also been so thankful for opportunities to visit with people and share in their lives! Those have been rewarding times of renewal and of redeeming the time we have while we have it.

God has faithfully affirmed things we knew to be true and planted them more firmly in our hearts. And even when His plan didn’t include removing the pain, He never ever abandoned us. He reminded us that sometimes he calms the storm; sometimes He calms the sailor. Even when the tensions that come with a household invaded by cancer, His faithfulness prompts our commitment to draw closer – to Him and to each other. His joy, sometimes more one of inner contentment than gushing effervescent bubbly joy, becomes strength to those who trust Him.

Whatever long-term struggles you face, and even when life is going well, each day is a battle for the mind. Being aware of making daily choices that lift us, not enslave us, is crucial, isn’t it? Sometimes I don’t fight the battle as well as others. Sometimes I keep on fighting when it is time to simply stand in God’s armor and let HIM fight for me. It is true that faith makes all things possible, but not easy.

I have learned that most everyone faces tough battles that include physical illness, relational tensions, work stress, financial struggles, battles for the mind, and all sorts of grief and sorrow. I wish I could tell you a way to escape them, but we won’t in this world. However… we don’t have to remain slaves to their mental and spiritual bondage. We have a loving God who cares for us and is ready to help us become victors and experience a peace we couldn’t otherwise expect…even as the storm rages within and around us. The only hope for victory I know is to surrender our complete trust to Him….all of it, in all things. And for me, it is a hope for the soul, like an anchor that is firm and secure. I know today, I need to consciously shorten the anchor rope so I don’t drift farther than I should. (Hebrews 6:19)

Be blessed in growing your thankful heart and in trusting one who is completely trustworthy to bring you a peace you won’t find anywhere else.

Blessings travel on two-way streets

Have you ever noticed that when you are intentional in brightening the path of others, that your path is also brightened? It’s NOT that you do good in order to get good. And the blessing you receive may be an entirely different kind than the one you give. But reciprocal blessings just seem to be the way things work. Like the old song, “Love is something, when you give it away, you end up having more,” we are blessed so we can bless others, and in turn we are blessed again.

God designed blessings to travel on two-way streets.
May your travels today be filled with intentional blessings!

Truth and Grace

My wife has been a most extraordinary help to me through the last ten months of Leukemia (my whole life actually). It hasn’t been at all easy for her to take on new roles of caring for someone who is generally pretty independent or to deal with the uncertainties that continue to present themselves.

One of Marcia’s characteristics that has ministered to me throughout this ongoing experience is the way she tenderly speaks truth and grace to me. We all need to hear truth but we aren’t always receptive to it, even from our best friend. Perhaps you too have experienced:

Truth without grace seems harsh; grace without truth is cheap. Grace and truth together are a costly and yet free gift of great value. They are the essence of who Jesus is and who we are called to be, in Him..

Allow me to offer what may be silly yet practical examples of how grace and truth work together. My treatment medicines often give me bad breath, despite a concentrated effort to maintain excellent oral care (an essential routine for cancer patients). So if Marcia senses this when we are out in public, instead of just telling me the truth, she demonstrates this with the gentle grace of offering me a mint. In my steroid-induced ‘manic’ moments when I talk too fast or too much (even more than normal :-)) she will often place her gentle hand on my shoulder to remind me, without a word, to slow down. That same signal reassures me when the meds increase my involuntary muscular tics and when I get so excited visiting with people that my breathing becomes too labored. Her message of truth provides needed awareness. Her quiet actions of grace allow me to receive and apply that message in a beneficial way.

This is the purpose of the Go Light Your World ministry: to help others discover God’s best for them by letting His light shine truth and grace into their lives. We want to encourage one another, myself included, to dig deeper, to press on, to BE the “light of the world” that Jesus calls us to be in our daily interactions with others.

Like learning to love and live well, it is a life long process and we don’t always get it right. But what great hope comes with each new day, a new beginning, an opportunity for each of us to renew our pledge to experience and share the peace and joy that is ushered in by truth and grace!

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

Fully satisfied

What really satisfies you?
A nice house? A relaxing vacation or exciting adventure? A really good meal? A good run? Time with friends and family? A day at the beach? Singing and listening to music? Doing good? Five minutes in the bathroom without interruptions from the children? 🙂

Did you know God wants us to have joy? He wants us to experience being fully satisfied. But it might not be in the way we expect. We so often seek satisfaction in things, in others, and in physical and emotionally charged experiences. And I’m thankful for the way God blesses us with these experiences. They have enriched my life and provided many great memories.

But I think we were designed to be fully and permanently satisfied only through a close and genuine relationship with our loving God. He is the only one who can fill our need for ultimate satisfaction.

John Piper’s book, Desiring God, has helped me view God, and interpret His Word from a different perspective. Like so many others, I had previously thought my primary purpose was to serve my wonderful, gracious, and loving creator. (And that IS a result of the Christian’s personal encounter with Jesus.) But Pastor Piper challenges us to consider “the chief purpose of man(kind) is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.” That is, to be more satisfied in HIM than in anything else.

Maybe you will ponder this one thought for a moment. How do you feel when your child or grandchild really wants, more than anything else, just to spend time with YOU? Or when you realize it really doesn’t matter a great deal what you and your closest friend do, so long as you can really enjoy each other’s company? Those experiences speak great satisfaction and value to you, don’t they? Imagine how our Heavenly Father feels when we come to Him, simply because it is so SATISFYING to be in His presence!

Like any goal, we won’t hit the mark every time. Just as there are times when we are upset with or don’t feel close to those we love here on earth, there will be times, perhaps even seasons, when we don’t feel satisfied with God. But just as we keep pursuing satisfaction on earth, let’s intentionally seek to find real satisfaction today by enjoying God more than anything else.

Psalm 63:1-5
1 You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

Even a little exercise helps a lot!

Those who have gone through repeated cancer treatments and/or stem cell know: this process depletes your body in an immense way. Those of you who have gone through other types of physical or emotional stress likely have experienced this too. I’ve had a lifetime of good health and a pretty resilient attitude that allowed me to endure and overcome a number of trials (thank you God). And so I figured this would be another of those, just a bit harder. I was surprised by how more challenging it would be and how far it would knock me down and for how long.

Along with the fatigue of Leukemia, I lost a LOT of muscle mass. So when I got enough strength to get back into the community, I went to see the physical therapist about back pain and building up my strength and endurance. She did a great job of explaining what would help and emphasized how valuable even small exercises would be. I have to admit, my ego was a bit embarrassed to lift those tiny 3 pound weights and do simple stretching exercises with those thin plastic bands. But I quickly found that my Leukemic body wasn’t offended at all and found these to be a plenty good start! Already, as I start to increase repetitions, I can feel the benefit of these small exercises.

This is also true with our emotional and spiritual health too! Sometimes, if you have a conflict with someone you might be advised to have a long one on one talk with them. Other times, rebuilding the relationship starts with a simple gesture, a helpful hand, a sincere compliment. Similarly, if you have found God to be distant, a commitment to short periods of time in his Word, even 5 minutes a day, or short conversations with him, even a simple ‘thanks’ before a meal…even these may help start the rebuilding of a relationship that has grown cold. These spiritual and emotional exercises may seem more routine or prescribed than authentic at first, and you might wonder if they could really make a difference. But whenever we get off our path, we need to take small steps to turn around and start heading back toward our goal. Trust is like that; it grows over time, sometimes in small ways.

Even if all is well in your world today, you may be surprised at the powerful effect small exercises of faith may have… on you and on those around you.

“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” Luke 16:10

That one thing that speaks to your heart

Have you ever read a whole book or watched a whole movie (or maybe listened to a whole sermon!) only to remember ONE poignant line that really spoke to you? Actually, I think that is perfectly fine and to be commended. When I used to do all day seminars and consulting, I would often tell my audience that if they remembered and applied just one single ONE concept that improved their life, it would pay the tuition for the whole day. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time fully incorporating the “7 essentials” of successful living or “14 ways to improve your life.” As for me, focusing on intentionally improving one or two things at a time is about my limit.

In fact, I still tend to summarize the primary point(s) of each chapter I read and then the one or two most important points that spoke to me from the whole book. I find myself intentionally listening for ‘that one line’ from a movie that speaks to my heart. For example, Facing the Giants is a film about football and faith. But apart from the football theme, the line that spoke to my heart was when the coach’s wife, in the depth or her disappointment, turned to God and said, “And still I will trust you.”

You might find yourself thinking similarly about a special place or time that remains so special to you. What special quality about that memory speaks so deeply to you? And how can you strive to achieve a similar experience right where you are now? Instead of looking back to the past for happiness, how can you carry those special ‘lessons learned’ to the present and enjoy them all your life? Even Jesus summarized God’s message to us in two commands to remember and apply to our daily lives: Love God and love others!

Similarly, you might think about a person who you find ministers to your soul when they are near. Of all the characteristics that describe them, what is at the essence of their being that speaks peace or joy to you? And how can you incorporate that same essence into who you are?

Our lives are filled with an immense amount of information, data, experiences, and emotions. Choosing to remember and maintain the essential few builds us up and strengthens and encourages us. It allows us to use our blessings to bless others.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

Disappointment or HIS appointment?

Can you remember a time when you were disappointed, either by something that happened you DIDN’T want, or something that didn’t happen you DID want? Most of us could quickly go to our carousel of childhood or teenage memories to pick out any number of examples: rejection by a friend, being told ‘no’ when we wanted ‘yes,’ garage sale clothes, underwear for Christmas. 🙂 These may seem frivolous now, but the memory of other deep disappointments may still have lasting effects on our soul: the loss of a loved one, the memory of abuse, never feeling like you measured up or mattered, making a poor choice that had lasting consequences.

I don’t know anyone who didn’t have to deal with some level of disappointment in their lives, whether momentary or life long. But as common as it is to experience disappointment even in major aspects of our life, there is another side to this coin. Asking God to reveal HIS APPOINTMENT in the situation doesn’t always yield an escape from the circumstances, but it does offer a way out from being trapped by the oppressive weight of disappointment. When Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” He spoke not only to an eternal life, but also to our participation in the aspect of eternal life that begins now; the way to be freed from the slavery to our present worries, fears, and sorrows.

Years ago Phil Keaggy wrote a song about this that opened with these lines:
Disappointment – His appointment,
Change one letter, then I see
That the thwarting of my purpose
Is God’s better choice for me.

The apostle Paul knew about sorrow, pain, and suffering. His writings reveal that he quickly turned any potential disappointments over to God and chose to diligently and eagerly pursue God’s purpose IN and through the situation. From his dismal prison cell he wrote:
“Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” Philippians 1:12

In other words, there is not only an escape from the oppression of disappointment, but also purpose to be found in disappointment. It may be to bring us closer to God so we can enjoy His presence or to sensitize and enable us to help someone else along their path.

Are you disappointed today? Tell God. (He already knows but wants to visit with you about it.) Ask him to reveal HIS appointment to you. (Hint: you will likely find it in His Word.) He WANTS you to experience HIS appointment of peace and power even in the middle of your disappointing storm.

Closing with the final words of Keaggy’s song:
Disappointment – His appointment
Lord I take it then as such,
Like the clay in hands of potter
Yielding wholly to Thy touch

All my life’s plan is Thy molding
Not one single choice be mine
Let me answer unrepining,
Father not my will but Thine.

Menu or special order?

How would you respond if the real Jesus appeared to you face to face? Would you consider the person to be disillusioned or discount the encounter as a hoax? Jesus Himself appeared to many people after his death on the cross. And even before his death He warned us that as we minister to the needs of the marginalized (the hungry, poor, those in jail, etc) we would actually be ministering to Him.

The movie, The Encounter, takes an engaging and dramatic look at what it might be like to encounter the real risen Jesus in this life and is worth the watch. In the first film, five unrelated people end up taking refuge in an isolated diner during a storm. The man behind the counter, Jesus, welcomes them and asks them if they’d like to order off the “menu or special order.” All special orders are a free gift. Jesus already knows their favorite meal and prepares it to their highest expectation.

As I think about his question, “Menu or special order?” I am reminded of the choices I have available to me every single day. I can simply accept what is on the standard “menu” for the day…the prescribed and comfortable activities, the daily routine, my same pattern of thinking through things in my own way, my same expectations of how the day will go, and my same response to my circumstances. There are choices, but they all seem limited to what is on “the menu.”

OR… I can make a “special order.” In other words, I can skip the standard menu of limited choices, and choose instead to access the ‘chef’s finest’ options. It would be like dialing up a sunny afternoon at the beach when it’s raining where I am or a walk in the forest while I am in the middle of the city.

In reality, a “special order” IS available to us wherever we are and whenever we seek it. I am not talking about a ‘name it and claim it’ approach to materialistic spirituality (an oxymoron, no?). But we DO have the opportunity to special order peace in the midst of chaos, faith instead of doubt and fear, strength in the presence of weakness, forgiveness instead of bitterness. We can special order endurance instead of giving up, love instead of disdain, kindness instead of apathy, purpose instead of a wasted day, and real hope instead of mere wishes.

Jesus freely offers all this and more to his followers every day. But the choice is ours: “What will you have today: the standard menu, or special order?”

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

Pretend it’s 1993 – Live today.

Today’s post accidentally went out early, yesterday afternoon (two in one day). If you missed it, you can read it by scrolling down to previous posts.

In the meantime here is a photo my niece found on the internet. It is of a sign in a NONinternet cafe that not only offered food for the stomach but also food for thought. Enjoy.

Who is in your path?

I hope we all want to hear God’s voice. And He wants us to hear it too! He speaks through prayer, through His Word, and through circumstances. God also speaks to us through others. We have to be discerning if it is an eternal truth we seek because there are a lot of people in our path, representing a lot of contrary views, not all of which agree with what God has to say. Nonetheless, God will put people in our path for our benefit, sometimes to learn an eternal truth. Sometimes it is to learn a specialized skill, which could benefit us regardless of who is the teacher. I have made it a point in life to learn from people I disagree with! I genuinely feel sorry for people who can learn only from people who hold similar views.

God doesn’t always put people in our path just to teach us something. Sometimes He puts precious people there to share our load, to encourage us, to point the way, to show us a more helpful way of thinking, or to comfort us. (He also puts US in their path for the same reason!) When Jesus said, “You are the light of the world,” His message was one of letting our light shine so that His truth, love, and grace would be revealed.

We all need three people in our lives: a more mature “Paul” who can mentor us, a “Timothy” we can pour into, and a strong “Barnabas” who shares a walk similar to ours. Who is in your path in this season of your life?